RESEARCH REPORT

In brief

In brief

  • Aerospace and defense companies face a once-in-a-generation chance to shape their future from the ground up as they navigate through recovery.
  • New markets are opening up, including commercial space and new forms of urban air mobility.
  • Aerospace and defense companies are accelerating their digital transformations at a faster pace than those in other industries.
  • Companies’ ability to master change ahead will be critical, with today’s technology decisions heavily influencing future performance.


Podcast: Digital Revolution has only just begun

Accenture’s Aerospace and Defense Tech Vision 2021 found 89% of executives say employees face the largest and fastest change in history. Listen in as Aviation Week speaks to Accenture’s Aerospace and Defense team about these developments.

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Leading through recovery to growth

The aerospace and defense industry faces a unique set of circumstances. Passenger expectations are changing fast. Defense budgets remain strong. And new markets are opening, including commercial space and new forms of urban air mobility.

So there are rich opportunities out there. To capitalize on them, aerospace and defense companies are reinventing their businesses and actively shaping their future from the ground up. In fact, they’re transforming even faster than organizations in other industries.

97%

of aerospace and defense executives report that their company is innovating with an urgency and call to action this year.

Aerospace and defense companies are no longer just competing for market share; they’re competing in new markets to build their vision of the future faster than the competition. Success will depend on their ability to accelerate and master change in all parts of their business, which in turn will be a direct function of the technology decisions they make today. Technology leadership shouldn’t be confined to the CIO or CTO alone. The entire C-suite and broader organization must embrace a digital-first approach. To drive this transformation, aerospace and defense companies must navigate these five key trends.

1. Stack strategically: Architecting a better future

IT systems architecture will be the next frontier in the competition between aerospace and defense companies. But building the most competitive technology stack means thinking about technology differently. In this new era, the lines between business and technology strategies will blur.

The most dynamic, sustainable and competitive technology stacks will empower aerospace and defense companies to tap into the full spectrum of technology capabilities. The aim? To build unique solutions for current markets, while equipping businesses to move into new markets, such as commercial space and urban air mobility. We’ll see a rise in paperless maintenance, virtual inspections, predictive analytics and AR/VR solutions.

81%

of aerospace and defense executives agree that their company’s business and technology strategies are becoming inseparable—even indistinguishable.

2. Mirrored world: The power of massive, intelligent, digital twins

Digital twins are growing up. Leading aerospace and defense companies are creating intelligent living models of factories, supply chains, product lifecycles and more. In doing so, they are bringing together data and intelligence to represent more of the physical world in digital spaces.

There’s major competitive advantage up for grabs. Intelligent twins have powerful simulation capabilities that remove barriers to innovation. They are, essentially, a risk-free playground to explore new ideas, strategize for many possible futures, and explore limitless “what-if” scenarios. So as aerospace and defense companies transform, they can explore a wealth of new opportunities, markets and ways of doing business.

68%

of aerospace and defense expect their company’s investment in intelligent digital twins to increase in the next 3 years.

3. I, technologist: The democratization of technology

Democratized technology empowers every employee to be an innovator. By putting powerful technology at employees’ fingertips, companies can add a grassroots layer to their innovation strategies.

What does this look like in practice? People from across the enterprise can optimize their work, fix pain points, and keep up with evolving business needs – all without having to request major IT projects.

87%

of aerospace and defense executives agree their organization must train their people to think like technologists—to use and customize technology solutions at the individual level.

4. Anywhere, everywhere: Bring your own environment

2020 saw the biggest workforce transformation in living memory. Aerospace and defense companies pivoted to enable most of their people to work from home, and invest in technology to keep them productive.

When the pandemic hit, most companies didn’t have much say in bring your own device (BYOD) – employees simply used the devices that worked best for them. Similarly, bring your own environment (BYOE) is here to stay, and companies need to get on board with it. Where possible, many aerospace and defense employees will want to continue working from home at least part of the time.

79%

of aerospace and defense executives agree that leading organizations in their industry will start shifting from a bring your own device (BYOD) to bring your own environment (BYOE) workforce approach.

5. From me to we: A multiparty system’s path through chaos

As aerospace and defense companies reaffirm their existing partnerships and forge new ones to support their evolving businesses, they are eager to underpin these relationships with a resilient, adaptable, and trustworthy foundation. Many will turn to multiparty systems, such as blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies.

Coordinated, strategic ecosystem partnerships will help aerospace and defense companies address today’s disruptions and be better prepared to weather new ones. But they’ll also enable ways to create new interactions or discover new ways to approach a market. These partnerships will start to blur industry boundaries, like the emerging collaboration between healthcare and travel, or even begin to shape entirely new industries.

33%

of aerospace and defense executives say their organization is experimenting with or scaling up multiparty systems (eg. blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies) this year.

Leading success into the future

As aerospace and defense leaders look to pilot their organizations successfully into the future, combat disruption and embrace a future powered by digital technologies they should embrace a three-point approach to:

Digitize across the value chain

Aerospace and defense companies need to embrace a “be digital and go digital” approach by adopting digital technologies to automate across value chain

Embrace new business models

Balance today's essential business with business models for the future that address the changing demands and increase in digital technologies

Collaborate to innovate

Collaborate across the industry and technology ecosystem, working with peers, partners, suppliers, and vendors to sustain and grow business value

View All


John Schmidt

Senior Managing Director – Aerospace & Defense, Global


Marc Gelle

Senior Managing Director – Aerospace & Defense, Europe

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